Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring 2010 Watercolor Calss

Week 2 – Watercolor: Snow and White House

White can seem like a huge challenge to the beginning watercolor student because the white of the paper is the traditional white so how do you create white snow?

This is where becoming very observant comes in to your advantage. If you look at a photo or if you happen to be in snow country, really look at the snow especially in the trees or on the shadowed sides of building, it isn't white. This is your brain telling you one thing when in reality it is something else. With the exception of only the brightest highlights, most of the snow is in shades of blues, purples and grays and the actual white is really only white by comparison, remember we must have dark to show light.

Because I have a lot to cover in this blog and I want to get it done before Monday, I am just going to go over the basics of what I did, it was all pretty similar, I just used it in different scenarios.

My first job is to figure out where my sun is because that will determine where my shadows will be and shadows are what I have to work with to show the snow. It is always good to have some kind of reference material to look at especially when you are learning, I want you to pay particular attention to the form shadows. Snow is soft and usually has rounded shapes, the darkest areas will be those away from the light causing a form shadow though these may not be as dark as a cast shadow (shadows cause by something blocking the light), yet in these deep cast shadows there may be some reflected highlights as the light hits an object and bounces back into a shadow. Usually a little lifting is all you need. A lot of this is done using negative painting, painting everything that isn't snow.

For the shadow colors in any white object I usually use a mix of blue (ultra marine or cobalt), purple and sometimes I add a touch of burnt sienna to gray the color, this is especially true for shadows in the distance. I load this color on the tip of my angle brush – though you can create a similar look with round or flat brushes - and I place the tip on the edge where I want my shadow but the whole edge of the brush is on the paper, this should give me a graded (dark to light) shadow. I will rinse my brush and dab it along any hard lines I see and the slight bit of color left in my brush will add texture to my snow. Any place that isn't in the bright light should have some color no matter how faint.

On one to the thumbnails I did, I started by painting rings of color, first I wet the entire section with water, then starting near the middle with a very dilute mix of yellow, I then switched to a very thin wash of orange and finally a very thin wash of red getting close enough to the previous color so they will blend and create a soft graded background. When it was dry, I used darker versions of each of the colors – yellow in the yellow areas, orange in the orange, red in the red – and negative painted around the trees in the sky. This increases the value as well as the intensity of the colors.

To paint the Mts, the furthest mts I used the red with a touch of blue, it should be only slightly darker than the sky and I painted around the trees. The same for the next layer of mts but I used a darker color adding water as I came forward on the right, it is still considerable darker than the trees.

In the trees, I painted the shadows. The light source is in the center so the shadows are to the outside. Look at the picture page and find your won reference. White is a fun challenge.

The house is a lot of negative painting. I started with the shadows under the porch roof where it is the darkest using a blue/purple mix. I was careful to paint around (negative paint) the railing and supports of the roof, I need to leave those white but I did go over where the windows will be. Using that same color I painted the shadows under the eves of the roof, across part of the roof and on part of the side of the house. If you need to indicate the shadow track it is okay to draw them in, just keep in mind that the angle of the roof and where the shadow continues down that back wall, there will be a bit of a jag because of the roof angle verses the vertical side of the house, look at shadows on a house to see what happens.

Next, under the roof of the porch and the eves of the house, it is very dark. A mix of blue, purple and a touch of sienna with little water make a very dark color. Put this color right under the above mentioned areas, rinse your brush and with a damp brush blend the bottom edge a bit to create a soft line. This dark color can also go into the corner of the building where the two sections of the house meet, again rinse your brush and blend it out.

White isn't always white because it will pick up colors that are reflected into it like green from the grass or colors from flowers this adds interest plus it makes it look more natural. Find a "white" wall and really look at it for a while or look at the clouds it helps to relax your eyes so they aren't focusing on one thing, pretty soon you will see all kinds of color!

First I wet the area that is white, this will help the paint spread, then I dropped in some very dilute colors like yellow and green, you can even do this in the shadow areas but keep to cool colors. A little color will go a long way and when I say drop I mean just barely touch the paper and let the watercolor do its thing. If it is too much either blot it with your towel or add more water but don't mess with it too much, trust your watercolor.

You can also help create your house by putting dark trees around it so you have light against dark. The chimney in the corner helps define the edge of the front part of the house, the porch helps define the rails of the porch. Using blue to make the window pains you can create the frame work of the window by leaving spaces, use a bit of shadow color the sill of the windows and along one side to create the outside frame. You can get as detailed as you want or you can just suggest things, the key is contrast between your darkest darks and lightest lights.

We will be doing the cactus flower that has been posted so if you want to download the drawing and/or the picture, have it ready for class.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week 1 Spring 2010

Watercolor Class Spring 2010

(Underlined highlighted words are links to the picture page)

The first day of class is always hard to plan for with the new people coming in, I never know how long it will take to go over equipment so I thought a quick demo on something I haven't done in a while would be a good one. Adding figures into your landscapes or cityscapes can add a lot of interest into your painting because as humans, it helps us relate better to the rest of the painting seeing some signs of life rather than a barren landscape or empty streets. Even a lone figure can add a sense of scope to your painting.

What happens though is when you are new to painting adding "people" is frightening. Your brain goes through all sorts of worst case scenarios: "I don't know how to paint people!" "It's too hard to paint people!" well, I think you've all heard the internal arguments about adding a person or even an animal to your painting so you don't.

The thing is, most of the time you can get away with just some very simple shapes that will translate in the brain as "people" or "animals". Remember, as painters, we are illusionists we can make the viewer see what we want them to see and it will seem believable. Whether it is a lone figure or a crowded street, all you are dealing with are basic shapes, as Frank Clarke would call them – carrots.

A lone person in the distance is just roughly the shape of a carrot or long "V" shape with a dash on the top for a head NOT a dot. Heads are more believable if they are vertical rectangle or oval shapes than if you make a round shape for a head. A crowd of people is just a mass of shapes and/or color with a few lines below to suggest legs and rectangles of all sizes and shapes to indicate heads. That's it. No blood, sweat or tears involved, just simple shapes and you are done.

The one thing you do need to keep in mind is proportion of your figures in relationship to what they are standing by. For instance, if you have the figure of a man standing next to a tree that is suppose to be 30 feet tall, you need to keep in mind the size of the figure in proportion to the tree. If the base of the tree and the feet of the man are on the same plane (if you draw a horizontal line from one to the other and they both touch the same line, they are on the same plane) and you create a figure that is half as tall as the tree it is standing next to, figuring a 6' man the tree will only look like a 12' tree. It is an optical illusion but it is one that can create problems for the artist. To correct that illusion you can do one of two things: either make the base of the tree shorter – that changes the plane the tree's base is sitting on or you can make the legs of the person longer moving it down onto another plane. Don't take my word for it; practice this on a scrap piece of paper to see for your self.

The figures don't need to be static either. I was asked in one of my classes can you do dancers that way, the answer is "Yes". Dancers, runners, bicyclists, anything that you want to put in you can do with simple shapes (see picture page). You do need to look at a photo or another painting and get an idea of what you want or where you need to go, but you can add these things to your paintings with just a little effort and planning.

Animals are the same way. Animals in the distance are just rectangles with a few lines for legs a thicker line for the neck and a "V" shape for the head. Sheep are just little oblong balls with "V"s for heads and lines for legs. Very, very simple. DO NOT OVER THINK THESE FIGURES! They are just simple shapes, nothing more.

I had a couple of requests for how to paint white, so next Monday I will be doing a demo on painting white houses and snow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring 10 Watercolor Class


I want to thank everyone who has signed up for classes because I have now met my minimums and then some in all my classes!

I hope you are all ready to get back to work and if there is something you would like more instruction on, please let me know.

See you in class.

Torrance 310-618-2720

Palos Verdes Art Center 5504 W. Crestridge Rd. at Crenshaw Blvd. RPV 310-541-2479

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring 10 Watercolor Class

If you are returning to my watercolor classes next week, I suggest that you bring something to work on at least for the start of class. I know that I will have some new people who will need to understand what they need for class and depending on their experience or equipment needs, will determine how long it takes me to get them going.

Time is more a factor at Torrance but if I can get the new folks taken care of and there is enough time, I will do a short demo on adding people into your landscapes and street scenes. It isn't difficult and it kinda fun once you try it, what I would like for you to do before you come to class is to find pictures with people on streets or at the park or at the pier, they can be your own photos or something out of the paper or magazine, they are only going to be used for reference. I have a couple pictures on the picture page to give you some ideas.

I look forward to seeing everyone back in class next week.